Properly equipped Tesla vehicles can now recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs thanks to a software update the company started pushing out to owners over the weekend.
The software update had been available to a sliver of Tesla owners, some of whom had posted videos of the new capability. Now, the automaker is pushing the software update (2020.12.6) to the broader fleet.
The feature isn't available in every Tesla vehicle on the road today. The vehicles must be equipped with the most recent Hardware 3 package and the fully optioned Autopilot package that the company has marketed as "full self-driving."
The feature, called Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control, is designed to allow the vehicles to recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs.
To be clear, Tesla vehicles are not self-driving and this feature has its limits. The feature slows properly equipped Tesla vehicles to a stop when using "traffic-aware cruise control" or "Autosteer." The vehicle will slow for all detected traffic lights, including green, blinking yellow and off lights, according to the software release notes.
As the vehicle approaches an intersection, a notification will indicate the intention to slow down. The vehicle will then begin to slow down and stop at the red line shown on the driving visualization, which is on the center display.
DragTimes tested and shared a video of a beta version of the feature (posted below).
Owners must pull the Autopilot stalk once or manually press the accelerator pedal to continue through the stop line. Tesla said the feature is designed to be conservative at first. Owners will notice that it will slow down often and will not attempt to turn through intersections. "Over time, as we learn from the fleet, the feature will control more naturally," the company wrote in the release notes.
Tesla warns in the release notes that "as with all Autopilot features, you must continue to pay attention and be ready to take immediate action, including braking because this feature may not stop for all traffic controls."
The software update also improved driving visualization, which is displayed in the vehicle. Additional objects such as stop lights, stop signs and select road markings now appear on the screen. The stop sign and stop light visualizations are not a substitute for an attentive driver and will not stop the car, Tesla said in the release notes.